Space City Pinball League Season 8 Playoffs: One turkey of a finish

Another regular season, another A division finish. I had been looking forward to this day since this “mini-season” started just four short weeks prior. I made sure to eat well and leave with plenty of time to spare for a few warmup games.

I got the night started with four warmup games on Deadpool, the last of which was a solid 247M+. Not good enough to enter my initials, but good enough to get me in a confident, winning mood. The question remained, though, would it be enough to carry me through the entire playoff tournament?

As usual, 4-2-1-0 scoring with the two leaders from quarterfinals and semifinals advancing. Game lineup (not in order of play): Deadpool, Attack from Mars, Star Wars, AC/DC, Ghostbusters, Guardians of the Galaxy, Iron Maiden, Metallica. This was pretty much the usual suspects. The quarterfinals would see me grouped with Fred Revnew, Elizabeth Dronet, and Jim Mueller, and we would be playing Attack from Mars, Star Wars, and AC/DC in that order. I would elect to play first in all games where I had the choice and would wind up playing in the leadoff spot across the entire tournament.

My first ball on Attack from Mars was a dud, with a puny 51.5M+ on a game where decent scores start at a billion. Not good. By the time it got back around to me for ball 2, I would be staring down a 1.37B+ from Elizabeth. A rather large margin, but not an insurmountable one. I proceeded to go to work. I would somehow manage to complete all the shots needed for Total Annihilation within the span of that one ball. Even though it was a relatively low scoring TA, I would see the lead with a 3.97B+ total, tacking on a few more points in a multiball on my third ball to sign off with 4.60B+, good for first place for 4 standings points. (I came within one shot of a second TA in one game, something I’ve never done on a real AFM machine that I can remember.)

My game on Star Wars was overall relatively low scoring. 54.4M+ is usually not a score I’m that proud of, but when two other players I’m up against score lower than that in the second game of a playoff tournament, I’ll gladly take it. At this point, it’s me with 6, Fred with 5, Elizabeth with 3, John with 0. John can’t advance and Elizabeth would need first place and hope Fred finishes no better than third.

I never really got much going on AC/DC. 5.9M+ would be good only for dead last, but John and Fred ran away with it in their respective games, enough to put Elizabeth back in third. I would advance to the semifinals with Fred. I’m starting to feel pretty darn good.

The semifinals would match me against Fred, Matt Quantz, and Cory Westfahl. We would play Ghostbusters, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Iron Maiden. I’ve gone on ad nauseam about Ghostbusters. I was disappointed to see it in the lineup when I arrived. I was hoping I could go the entire tournament without playing it. Now, I’m hoping I could make the ridiculous video mode on the skill shot enough times to put up a decent score.

To say the least, that didn’t happen. I put up an embarrassingly bad 3.4M+ with all three of the other players topping 100M. I’m just disgusted at this point, but I pull it together for the next game.

Right on cue, I start Guardians of the Galaxy with a rather lousy 3.5M+ ball. Cory puts up a 34.8M+ and Fred puts up a 7.8M+. (Matt put up a score very close to mine, basically a tie at this point, not really worth worrying about.) My second ball wouldn’t be much better, bumping me to only 5.1M+, behind everyone else but a particularly distant 50.6M+ from Fred. But this is Guardians of the Galaxy, and based on past experience, if I can get Groot Multiball started, I’m still in it. If I remember right I have either two balls locked or the second lock lit.

Well, I get Groot Multiball started. I concentrate on just keeping the balls in play and trying to make as many jackpot shots as I can. The next few minutes seem like a blur, but I finally get a chance to catch a glimpse the score counter after the bonus countdown: 82,279,870. Enough of a lead that I could feel like maybe it would hold up. Matt signs off with 11.4M+. Fred signs off with 56.0M+. Finally, Cory signs off with 45.8M+ and I have a first-place finish.

The semifinals would conclude with Iron Maiden. The standings are 4-4-3-3 with the 4s being Matt and I. Basically, a second place or better and I’m assured at least a tiebreaker; two points or more ahead of Matt (either a first place no matter what Matt does, or a second place with Matt finishing last) and I’m definitely in. I don’t really have much to brag about through the first two balls. I would start ball 3 with a 19.2M+ behind Fred’s 23.5M+ and Cory’s 53.8M+. The last thing I wanted was to deal with a tiebreaker after this nerve-racking round.

I would start a Warrior Multiball, good enough to rocket me up to 68.3M+ which would hold up for second place and assure me an advance to the finals. I was already assured my best ever finish just making it out of the quarterfinals, and now I am looking at finishing in the top four in league play for the first time ever.

Fred Revnew, Phil Grimaldi, and Bryce Revnew. AC/DC, Ghostbusters, and Guardians of the Galaxy. The opponents are not a big surprise. The games, on the other hand… left a bit to be desired. I had just played the latter two of these games and played the first in the quarterfinals.

There’s really not a whole lot to write about in these last three games, because it got pretty ugly pretty quickly. I would eke out a third place on AC/DC. I would finally make the video mode skill shot on Ghostbusters for once out of the six balls played, but it wouldn’t be enough to even eke out another third place. I’m still not mathematically eliminated from third place after that. I put up a decent score of 42.3M+, only to watch Bryce, the eventual winner of the tournament, rocket past it with a 744.1M+, with both Phil and Fred able to sign off with higher scores as well. So fourth overall it would be. Phil would once again finish third, with Fred taking second and for the first time in league history a father-son duo would finish first and second in two consecutive seasons. Not only this, but there’s another first of note: three different champions in three consecutive seasons. The last time that could have possibly happened was in season 3, the one after Preston Moncla (commuting from Beaumont!) won.

Honestly, after the three disappointing games of the final round, I was just glad for it to be over. That’s extremely out of character for me, and I don’t really even know why I felt that way. It could have been just fatigue. It didn’t feel normal to me in the moment, but maybe it is normal for how I am now versus how I would have reacted five, ten, or more years ago to a similar situation. Only time will tell.

I take some comfort in looking at the pattern of my playoff finishes thus far (post describing playoffs linked for ease of reference, where available):

  • Season 1: League DNP (N/A)
  • Season 2: B divison quarterfinal bust (25th)
  • Season 3: B division, playoffs DNP (32nd)
  • Season 4: B division 3rd place (15th)
  • Season 5: B division quarterfinal bust (29th)
  • Season 6: B division 1st place (17th)
  • Season 7: A division quarterfinal bust (15th)
  • Season 8: A division 4th place (4th)

If the past is any indication, I have at least a 2nd place finish to look forward to sometime in 2019. I believe the best is yet to come. I’ll have some more thoughts on the most recent season next week.